Navajo Area IHS seeks to offer at-home COVID test kits

No details provided about when kits would be available or distribution plans

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Area Indian Health Service is working to offer at-home COVID test kits to tribal members as the holiday season continues.

During an update about COVID-19 on Dec. 23, Navajo Area Indian Health Service Director Roselyn Tso said the agency wants to secure test kits so tribal members can use the kits when they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or before they travel for holiday gatherings.

"Our goal is to prevent the spread. Our goal is to contain the COVID-19 to a minimum," Tso said.

The effort comes after President Joe Biden announced on Dec. 21 that the federal government will provide free rapid home-testing kits and mail them to those who request them starting in January.

Biden's announcement comes as the country sees a surge in COVID-19 cases and a rise in the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Navajo Area Indian Health Service Director Roselyn Tso talks about at-home test kits for COVID-19 during the Dec. 23 update to tribal members about the virus.

While there have been no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant on the Navajo Nation, health officials said it is only a matter of time before that happens because the strain has been detected in states that surround tribal land.

Tso did not provide details about when the test kits would be available or about its distribution.

However, she said several hospitals that serve the Navajo Nation are considering implementing "crisis of standards of care" because of staffing levels.

This screenshot on Dec. 23 shows information by the Navajo Epidemiology Center on the types of COVID-19 variants detected in cases on the Navajo Nation.

This would mean a change in the usual health care operations at facilities, including longer wait times, deferring services or referring care to outside hospitals, Tso explained.

"This will be a facility-by-facility situation that we will continue to monitor," she said.

According to the update by the Navajo Epidemiology Center, the Delta variant remains the most dominant strain in cases on the Navajo Nation.

Throughout the town hall, health officials urged tribal members to follow COVID-19 precautions and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez addresses tribal members on Dec. 23 during an online update about COVID-19.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said that data presented to him showed that 87% of residents who are 65 or older on the Navajo Nation are fully vaccinated.

"You would think our elders would be the ones scared of this vaccine. They're not," Nez said. " They know the severity of this monster called COVID-19."

He added that there have been 8,567 children ages 5 to 11 who have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The Navajo Nation reported 40,901 cases and 1,578 confirmed deaths in total as of Dec. 22.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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